The Girl On The Train

Rachel Wagstaff and Duncan Abel, based on the Paula Hawkins novel
Simon Friend, Amblin Partners and Josh Andrews
Festival Theatre, Malvern

Rachel (Samantha Womack) and her ex, Tom (Adam Jackson-Smith) Credit: Manuel Harlan
Scott (Oliver Farnworth) and Rachel (Samantha Womack) Credit: Manuel Harlan
Psychotherapist Kamal (Naeem Hayat) glimpsed by Rachel (Samantha Womack) Credit: Manuel Harlan

Another Monday morning and Rachel, divorced, lonely, vodkaholic, lies in her grotty flat with a two-day hangover and cannot remember what happened on the Saturday night that left the bump on her head and blood on her hands.

Soon she discovers it was also the night that Megan disappeared, the seeming enviably happily woman she used to see daily from the train. And as events slowly come back, will Rachel—who lies, conceals or misremembers the truth—be believed?

‘Haze effects’, ‘smoke effects’, warns a sign outside the auditorium. It might have mentioned mirrors too, as false clues are laid to implicate every one of the main characters, including Rachel herself.

Whereas Paula Hawkins’s hugely successful novel offers rival narratives from each of the three main female characters, the play traces the drama very much through the eyes of Rachel, who inveigles her way into the lives of others, of Megan’s husband Scott, of ex Tom and his new wife Anna. She even manages to inspect the inspector and shrink the shrink.

If that seems a little improbable and unsatisfactory, unlike in many thrillers, the ending most definitely is not—a credible climax with the benefit that the baddie is punished and hope rises again.

Samantha Womack leads a closely integrated cast with spirit, pun intended. She has the lilting delivery and limping gait of a drunk acting sober, and when things get tough can do a lovely blub.

Oliver Farnworth as Scott, Adam Jackson-Smith’s Tom, Lowenna Melrose as Anna, Kirsty Oswald’s emotional Megan and Naeem Hayat as the psychotherapist revolve around the action like fencers, with regular thrusts too from John Dougall as the inspector.

Reviewer: Colin Davison

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